PhD milestones, it’s all in the celebratory details

Many universities are hosting graduation ceremonies in the upcoming weeks. They are momentous and formal occasions, but there are also small ways in which you can casually embrace this and other PhD milestones…

Today is Graduation Day at the University of Warwick!

Let me correct that.

This week is Summer Graduation Week at the University of Warwick!

With so many different faculties and departments, it is understandable that graduation ceremonies must be scheduled throughout a whole week, with two ceremonies on each day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The graduation ceremony for my department, Film and Television Studies, is scheduled for this afternoon (I wrote this on Monday 17 July). I knew that because two of my colleagues are graduating today (congrats James and Cat!), but I was reminded of this milestone when I walked into my department this morning to get on with my work (as I am nowhere near my graduation date). Upon crossing the department doors, I was met by a wonderful “Congrats Grad!” banner. I don’t know who put it there, but I thought it was such a simple yet lovely detail.

Why did that banner make me think about the way we embrace milestones? The thing with PhD milestones is that you put so much work into getting there, that once you reach that stage it may feel like you still have to wait to celebrate as you have yet to figure out what the next step will be. What do I mean by that? Well, when you complete a confirmation of candidature, an upgrade panel or a progress review, you want to celebrate that you have cleared that PhD stage, yet you know you still have writing to do. By the time you complete your thesis, it is a similar waiting period: you submit it, but you must wait for your viva or the examiners’ report, and then you might have to make a few corrections, and then you have to wait again, and then you have to wait for your scheduled ceremony on Graduation Week. When a day like today arrives, you have done so much waiting that you may feel like you don’t even know what you are celebrating.

To all that I say: if you are graduating today, this week, this month, or anytime soon… Celebrate! Embrace every grin and hug! Take lots of selfies! And don’t be too shy when it comes to embracing any graduation accessories or decorations.

As I was coming up with this blog post idea, one of the students who is graduating today came in to the Postgrad office holding a “You Did It” flag that a friend made for her (congrats Marta!). For me, it confirmed what I am writing here so I asked her if I could take a photo of it.

This student said that she was indeed nervous about today and that she couldn’t quite believe that she had gotten to this point. The “You Did It” flag was a reminder that she had in fact done it. She told me that she went through a similar process upon submitting her thesis: she actually threw glitter up in the air and all over her when she let go of it. Similarly, when she had officially passed all the post-submission hurdles, she bought a crown, wrote PhD on it, and wore it all day. It seems that I have found a kindred spirit as her stories reminded me of my own tradition when it comes to PhD milestones. After I passed my confirmation of candidature in Australia, I placed a golden star on my forehead and I wore it proudly all day.

Wherever I went, people would ask me about the star so I got to share my exciting news. This meant that I would tell them about the research I had done in one year and how it had been recognised on that day; it served as a reminder for myself that I had in fact accomplished something worthy of a celebration. Now, this might seem too silly for some of you, but it helped me express the way I was feeling to myself and to others. I started this tradition with my PhD friends, so now I have golden stars waiting for them at the end of their panels, and I am definitely planning to have golden stars for us all when it is our time to graduate.

How have you celebrated your PhD milestones? Are you excited and/or nervous about your graduation ceremony? How will you celebrate this accomplishment? Share your Graduation or Milestone selfies with us on Twitter via @ResearchEx and we will make sure to retweet your good news.

Hip hip hooray! 

Sofia (@mextexausuk)

Cover Image: graduation-future-university-cap-1695185/ Cparks / CC0 1.0

Other Images: Author’s own, taken by Sofia Rios.

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